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Too Soon. Not Ready.

students.jpgRegular readers may recall that from time to time I’ve leveled some harsh judgments about chiropractic colleges that seem more interested in tuition dollars and board examinations than producing gradates who can practice successfully. So along comes Life University, which has assembled an impressive curriculum entitled Principles of Practice and Business Management, designed to do just that. Moreover, imagine my delight when I was invited to participate in this program by delivering an 8-hour presentation to a group of students this past Saturday.

My host Dr. Brian Flannery was wonderful. The classroom venue was first rate. The weather outdoors was overcast and conducive to great attendance. And while the handful of students who actually showed up fought over the most distant seats in the back, they were generally polite, participative and from time to time, even appeared engaged.

But I learned something Saturday that caught me by surprise.

Apparently, there’s good reason why so many chiropractic colleges do little more than pay lip service to equipping students with key business skills. Turns out, passing the board examinations and living almost exclusively in left-brain land is seen as a much more pressing concern than preparing the groundwork for actual practice. In other words, providing business skills and strategies for patient communications, with board examinations hanging in the balance, is a low priority. Thus, in large part, my presentation was designed to answer questions few students were even asking, much less thinking about! Too soon. Not ready.

Those who have recently graduated and now in their second or third year of practice might agree that waiting a month or two before graduation to attend to the business side of things makes the looming specter of practice unnecessarily scary and stressful. However, it doesn’t change the fact that many students simply aren’t prepared to attend to this crucial matter any sooner.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with a famous management consultant back in 1997. I had observed to him that it was tragic that so many new graduates flounder and fail. At the very time they need a consultant, they can’t afford one. “They have to struggle, before they’re coachable,” he revealed. “And the ones who don’t make it are the ones who probably wouldn’t have made it even with coaching.”


At the time, I remember thinking that his assessment was rather cold; even cruel. After my own experience this past Saturday, I’m more inclined to appreciate the practical realities of his wisdom.

Does that mean chiropractic colleges are off the hook? I still think they have the obligation to warn incoming students who occupy the amiable and analytical side of the personality quadrant that they have a challenge that can hinder their professional career. And while not a disqualifier, it’s a handicap that will require their attention should they ever wish to open their own practice.

A pipe dream? Perhaps. But first chiropractic colleges would need enough endowment money so they won’t be tempted to accept anyone producing carbon dioxide with an adequate credit score. (Perhaps in your estate planning you could include your alma matter or some other chiropractic college that reflects your values.)

They’ve asked me back for next quarter. I’m flattered. However, in light of the chess game, internet surfing, napping, hangover recovery, private conversations and studying for exams that many used the day for, I may need to rethink my presentation.

Comments (13)

Many people in the this field do not succeed just because they are not aware of the "people" aspect to this practice. You can be the best doctor around but if you do not know how to interact with your clients then they will not stay. I liked what the coach said: “And the ones who don't make it are the ones who probably wouldn’t have made it even with coaching.”

Sad, but very true


Waaa.. wwhaaa.. whaaaa..
Bill, you are a mean mean man—how dare you say that we are apathetic students, whaaaah! How dare you care about seeing chiropractic succeed despite our apathetic attitudes, whaaah! We are living very busy very important lives passing pathetic, useless tests most of which mean nothing for our future success, whaaah! We need to get our sleep at school, because we are spending our nights partying, you understand, don't you? whaaah.. whaaah.. whaaah..

"You, as well as everybody who knows me or has ever heard me rant and rave about our foolish and incompetent American "educational" system, will recall that I always felt that our system was merely a transfer system from books to brains. There is not enuf practical application in our methods.

Just so long as the "student" has a certain number of hours, passes an examination on what he has crowded from the book into his brains and then squeezed it out on paper so it looks like what is in the book, then he is "educated," graduated and turned loose to show how little he can use any of it, and to prove that our system is wrong in producing mighty men of mind and muscle."
-- BJ Palmer

Bob Wagner:

The sad part about these comments is that they would have been the same in 1985 when I was in school! There never seems to be any growth in our profession. I've known Bill for some time and he is like Teflon when it comes to the chiropractic personality. Now that CJ Mertz is part of the planning team for practice building at Life, the fox is in the hen house. His toxic methods of repelling people out your door faster than you can get them in is now accepted at Life and that is sad. I read all these blogs and can only shake my head in disbelief. Can't someone design a personality test for chiropractors and then have them take it? Our profession never grows because the schools never water it!

I went to National and remember that no teacher was around when we graduated because they couldn't believe we wanted to do this for a living. Most were teaching, if you can call it that, and attending law or graduate school at night. Fine group of mentors don't you think?

My point, Bill has a right to be frustrated but yet it's almost like a parent, he just wants the best for his children. Sadly, schools of chiropractic have proven otherwise as these comments well document. I just had a student meet with me from another school and his opinion was similar, so don't get too excited over my comments! Different schools, same personalities. If schools would just hire someone with a business degree of any substance instead of more of the same, then change might occur but not before then.

Chiropractic is such an intimate business that I submit to you that if most students understood what it takes to do the business of chiropractic they might just head the other way.

Best of luck to you students and soon to be business owners because it is hard work!

Todd Hackney:

Just to play devil's advocate; Since when is it an chiropractic college's responsibility to teach BUSINESS. Maybe potential chiropractic students shouldn't rush to get the bare minimum requirements for acceptance and try to earn a BS in Business or Marketing or Management before dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a chiropractor. How many future D.C.'s actually spent time in an office LEARNING what it takes before choosing to become a chiropractor? Are these types of courses taught at medical or dental or even technical schools? Just taking the chiropractic courses is daunting enough, as evidenced by some of these statements, but who will teach the courses, chiropractors or "coaches"?!? Unfortunately, too many students are mislead by the schools or some speakers who come on campus and tell half-truthes and even other students themselves who think they truly know what it takes to be a good D.C. AND businessperson. Maybe the time to learn about business management and marketing is NOT while trying to pass board exams.

Mike Headlee, D.C.:

I wanted to thank you for spending time with the students at Life. Some of my interns had their eyes opened to your comments. One said that she is an amiable personality and knows she needs to be more outgoing and speak the truth about chiropractic to more people. We are working on ways to get her out of her comfort zone so that she can grow into the great DC that she has the potential to be. She is very optimistic about her future now.

Another student said because of your talk that he is not afraid of planting seeds when he goes out in public. He has never done this before and this alone will help him be a better DC.

Also they were impressed with you comments on patient relationships that reminded them not to scold patients or make them feel guilty for their actions, ex. discontinuing care, etc..

Thanks for all that you do, you are the Michael Phelps of patient education.

Mike Headlee,D.C.

Suzanne McBride:

Hi Bill.
I was a student in your class at Life last Saturday. While I would agree with you about your comments, I would urge you to consider coming back. Thus far the business classes at Life have been too many....too boring...too outdated....all in all awful. That being said, to my disappointment, I only showed up for the second half of your presentation (my own little protest). You were the first quality speaker to give us real tools. Thank you.
I know Brian Flannery is fighting an uphill battle with the business program but word will get around that Dr. Flannery got a really great presenter in, that you were informative and it will improve. The power of campus gossip. Good luck. Hope to see you again.

Vic Dees:

Bill, first I'd like to thank you for spending time and effort to do what you do for chiropractic. But I think you really don't understand what we as DC students are up against. Even though I am already a client of a management group I am always willing to listen to the views and opinions of others. Your view is a unique one and I'm sure plenty of DC's can benefit if they take the time to listen and learn from people like you. Back to what it's like to be a DC student--- speaking for myself, we just came off midterms and most of us had at least seven midterms and other exams on Monday & Tuesday.

Even though some of us may have been studying--we were engaged and offered commentary when possible. DC education isn't what it used to be--now its a FULL FLEDGED endeavor that takes a great deal of time. We all PAID to attend your seminar because its mandatory--but we still have other responsiblities. And the first is to our education that we are paying a great deal of money for. So PLEASE don't be offended by those of us that were studying and still engaged with you. As for the comments about side conversations, being "hungover", etc. if that was really bothersome to you, maybe you should have corrected that when you saw it occuring. You should have awaked those that were asleep and advised them that it was bothering you.

We are all humans, and don't do the right thing all the time and as ADULTS and Professional students we should KNOW better--but maybe some need to be reminded. And as an instructor or presenter you could go a long way in their education by teaching them these things instead of publicizing it to everyone on the Internet.

Again, I did appreciate your time and message, but I was offended by the content of the Blog. And of course I'll get over my offense--but it's almost a double standard to be a champion of Chiropractic, but when given the chance to actually do so--we take the role of crtitc and then threaten not to return. What kind of message does that send? If you don't return that would be sad, but other management and coaching groups will just come in and fill your spot. You have a great message--don't let things like this bother you. I totally believe in being PATIENT CENTERED and your message seems right on target.

I want to apologize for my fellow students that lack manners and courtesy--and for my own selfish indulgence in my academic pursuit, but this is a free country and you will never have the undivided attention of those that are forced to participate in a program during a stressful period.

Keep up the good job and don't allow things to upset you that you could control if you wanted to.


Lucas Logan:

Sorry Bill, I confess I am one of the students at Life that heard you speak. I may have dosed off a couple of times during your talk, but you need to realize that I have just came out of a grueling set of midterms, and have not had much sleep in the past three weeks. I did, however, appreciate your talk, and I feel that I learned a lot from your ideas and look forward to checking out your site for more info. I think a lot of students have preformed ideas about these business classes... I know from my experience one of the classes had nothing to do with business and the speaker engaged us only to think positively for what we want out of life, and the other class I remember was basically a six hour commercial trying to get us to hand over $3000 for a management class. I appreciate your "just be yourself" attitude and can't wait to hear you at homecoming. Thanks!

Melanie Carr:

As a CA (chiropractic assistant) becoming a chiropractor, I have different views on how to run an office than other people at this school have.

Part of the problem at our institution is that most of the students have never actually worked in a chiropractic office, and I'm sure some of them on new patients rather than educating the ones they have and maintaining life long relationships.

Just as you mentioned we are in the business of changing beliefs, and we are - it does make sense, so are our professors. Chiropractors have graduated from this institution with the idea that all they need to do is adjust and be solid in the chiropractic philosophy to succeed.

The majority of students want the "meat and potatos" in business classes. Give me the paperwork, tell me how to do taxes, and which method of marketings work better in various areas. Having not been in practices prior to this, they can't see that the foundation is being laid down one brick at a time in the business curriculum - and therefore tune it out to focus on things they deem "more important".

I have been in practice, and have absolutely no doubt I can start and build my own practice by the time I graduate. But even so, the view you gave us would be in my mind most important... and also hardest to grasp.

You gave us a much needed solid foundation in the morning session, and although you turned off some people and were assaulted with rudeness I was quite impressed how you stood strong and did not back down or strike back. You instead stuck with it and did what you know you are here to do.

In the afternoon session you gave us some great tools to take advantage of prior to graduation, such as learning to talk to people and see what works and doesn't work for getting the message across. You also gave us some great ideas for how to reach the patients who are ready to take the next step in the belief changing process, and they were phenomenal.

Best of all, you let us know it really isn't hard to do all of these things as long as we know who we are, why we are here, and are ready to serve.

You sent me home Saturday fired up and ready to go! I forsee great changes in the business practices of chiropractors years down the road.

I am pretty sure your innate is telling you DO NOT GIVE UP! I KNOW every chiropractic student needs to hear your message, and am working on changing it from the students' end. So lets team up and watch the changes together, shall we?

Mark A Patterson Sr:

I was one of the few that show up this Sat. Aug 23, at Life. I was not happy about spending another Saturday listening to another sells pitch about what practice management group I need to join to be a success as a Chiropractor. When I walked into the classroom and saw Bill, I knew it was not going to be another boring Saturday. I had heard Bill speak 15 years ago and still remember what he said. He still speaks the truth. I know what he is saying because I have been in the Chiropractic field all my life from working with my father to working for the last 18 years for two Chiropractors in the Atlanta area. And what I have learned is if you don't know how to treat your patients you will always struggle to keep them and have to find new patients all the time. I feel some of the younger students did not understand what Bill was saying due to their inexperience in the field. I’m a 48-year old student with a lot of field experience from running a practice for a Chiropractor to taking X-rays and doing exams to being an office manager. I wish more students had the opportunity to work in the field before they graduated to see what Bill was saying was true. Mark A. Patterson, Sr.

Tony Russo:

Practice management was not even on my radar when I graduated. I knew that my good looks and charm would get me through. And to some extent, it did. But all the good looks and charm won't keep them coming back. Bill voiced it so eloquently when he referred to the two "R's": Referrals and Reactivations.

That is the foundation of my practice. Just do a damned good job, give them... offer them more than what they came in for, show concern at every step of the way, check in on them and make the appropriate changes. Just ask them what they think. And every word Esteb wrote, my God, it's free! Some of my friends are the practice managers Bill refers to. Who do I listen to? Bill, who else. So finally, 1. The two "R's", 2. Read everything Bill wrote. It's free! And you'll make it. Oh, and good looks and charm are always an asset!

Did these people realize that there are people in practice, whether in trouble or not, 'cause we're all in some kind of trouble at one time or another, but there are people who pay $325 to hear the exact same words that Bill says, and these guys are getting it for free? You've got to be kidding. Bill, if you're ever in the Windsor/Detroit area giving a talk for free. "I'll fill all the front seats. Sheeshk!

Bill, It seems that it is too bad that you had that experience. I have been out of school for about 7 months now and have implemented most of your patient media concepts to my practice. Coming from Western States Chiropractic College, where they teach an allopathic approach to Chiropractic, it has been quite eye opening to hear the wellness approach to care. I would have to agree that about 85% of all my classmates did not take guest speakers very seriously because all 85% of them knew they were going to be an associate and would pick up everything they needed know about pratice then. Me and a few of my colleagues, on the other hand, were the ones engaged, asking quesitons and taking notes, because we had deadlines and build-outs and grand openings to plan. I think that using the excuse that Boards are around the corner is a cop-out on why students did not give you the time of day. It is an out of sight, out of mind principal. If I knew I wasn't going to "need" the information for another three years, I probably would have been playing internet games too. Instead, I played those games during fun classes like OB-GYN and Male GU. I wish I could have had the priviledge of hearing you speak. Don't give up on the select few students that will utilize your knowledge.

Sad, but true. What are the attributes necessary to be a "successful" chiropractor?

WDE: Authenticity. Presence. Decisiveness. Self-esteem. Technical certainty.

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From August 25, 2008 7:13 AM

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